The All Blacks have slumped to their fifth loss in six tests. It was South Africa’s biggest win over New Zealand since 1928.
More pressure will go on coach Ian Foster after a game the Springboks dominated throughout.
The physical battle was won by the home side in their two tries to one victory.
The Springboks were more dominant than the scoreline suggests as they bossed the set-piece and breakdown, with hooker Malcolm Marx particularly devastating in the latter in his 50th test.
South Africa led 10-3 at halftime and increased their advantage as the game progressed.
Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux scored for the home side.
There were 16-points from the boot of South Africa’s Handre Pollard with two conversions, three penalties and a drop goal.
All Black Shannon Frizell crossed for a late consolation try late off the back of a Caleb Clarke break, which was converted by Richie Mo’unga.
Jordie Barrett succeeded with a penalty.
Foster says All Blacks were improved despite heavy defeat to Boks
Ian Foster said his side had improved their performance from the historic 2-1 home series loss to Ireland, despite the loss at Mbombela stadium on Saturday ranking as the heaviest defeat by South Africa in 94 years.
The Springboks’ power game, dominance of the ruck and superiority under the high ball was too much for the All Blacks, making a disappointing start to the championship.
It was the fifth defeat in six games for Foster, who was already under pressure before the game but will now have further questions asked of his ability to lead the team a little over a year out from the Rugby World Cup in France.
But he remained defiant and said there were aspects of the All Blacks’ performance that pleased him greatly, and the team will be better in the second Rugby Championship encounter against the Boks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 13 August.
“Congratulations to South Africa, they were more clinical than us,” Foster said. “They played their (style of) game well… under pressure they went to the kicking game and that put us under a lot of pressure.
“For us, I actually thought it was a step up in performance from the last series. The line-out worked well, the maul defence was good and our overall defence was pretty solid.
“We perhaps just missed a little bit of timing in terms of our attack. We will have to go and look at that.”
New Zealand conceded 11 penalties to the Boks’ seven, but Foster said that was all down to the pressure put on his team.
“It felt like we weren’t getting the rub of the green in the first 20 minutes and that put us behind a little bit,” he said.
“The third quarter was critical for us in terms of getting back into the game, but all the Springboks did was carry hard and get a few penalties. That is their game, which is a pressure game.
“You saw as the match unfolded the opportunities did start to come, there were just a couple of handling errors. I thought we made some strides (forward), but we have to prove that next week.”